The Lenbachhaus museum in Munich has sparked controversy by redacting part of the title of a 112-year-old painting by August Macke, entitled “Indians on Horseback Near a Tent.” The museum’s decision to change the title to “I******” in English and a similar version in German has drawn criticism from some quarters, who accuse the museum of “woke madness” and censorship.
The painting, which depicts figures with headdresses on horseback near a teepee, has been in the Lenbachhaus’s collection since 1964 and has been displayed with its original title ever since. However, the museum recently decided to change the title, citing concerns that the word “Indian” is offensive and racist when used by non-Indigenous people.
The museum’s decision has been met with mixed reactions. Some have praised the museum for taking a stand against racism, while others have criticized the move as an act of censorship and a distortion of history.
The museum’s director, Matthias Mühling, defended the decision, saying that it was necessary to “critically reflect” on the painting’s title in a historical context. He said that the museum is “obliged to deal with the history and art of the early 20th century,” which includes “historical sources whose language and images can sometimes contain offensive or even racist elements.”
Mühling also noted that the painting’s title was not given by Macke himself, but by its former owner, Bernhard Köhler. He said that at the time the painting entered the museum’s collection, the term “Indian” was widely used to refer to Native Americans, but that it has since fallen out of favor and is now generally viewed as racist.
The controversy over the painting’s title has highlighted the ongoing debate about the role of museums in addressing historical racism and the use of offensive language in artworks. Some argue that museums should take an active role in confronting racism and promoting social justice, while others believe that museums should focus on preserving and presenting artworks without alteration.